Ireland’s main opposition parties went head to head yesterday in the first public debate of the upcoming election.
Around 20 percent of voters remain undecided according to the latest figures. A recent poll gave Fine Gael 38 percent of the vote, which was almost double that achieved by their potential coalition partner Labour.
In attempts to capitalize on the poll results, Enda Kenny the Fine Gael leader went on the offensive during the first television debate of the election, as he criticized Eamon Gilmore, the leader of the centre-left Labour party for requesting an additional two years to get Ireland’s budget deficit under control.
"What you don't say Eamon is that you have already changed your tack from 2014 to 2016. That is going to mean a further five billion (euros) in borrowing ... that means higher taxes, higher interest rates, higher unemployment, longer austerity from the Labour party."
In response, Eamon Gilmore, the Labour leader said that Fine Gael’s decision to stick to the 2014 target of getting the deficit in control out Ireland at risk of a prolonged downturn.
"If you take almost 10 billion out of the economy Enda you have less money being spent in our economy, you have fewer people at work and you have less activity in the domestic economy."
However Michael Martin, the new Fianna Fail leader highlighted that the two leaders may working on a coalition deal in two weeks
"And they want to go into government together?"
Yesterday’s debate was the first among Ireland’s political leaders. On Wednesday, another debate will be held in the Irish language.
Sinn Fein, which is lead by Gerry Adams, has been tipped to win support from dissatisfied Fianna Fail voters. However many voters are opposed to supporting Sinn Fein, which was once affiliated to the Irish Republican Army.
Alluding to this Michael Martin slammed Gerry Adam’s: "How dare you talk about fraud among politics and among people down here in the republic," Martin said.
"With the greatest respect, Gerry is the last man on this platform to talk about fraud or to talk about anything like that given the baggage that you have come with in the past."